State of the (Food) Union

By Lauren Neuschel

Native Foods Cafe

 

In case you missed it, there has been some pretty important news surrounding food coming from our nation’s capitol. (And we’re not just talking about our D.C. stores opening this summer!!) 

Congress passed a new farm bill last month— the Agricultural Act of 2014— that will affect everything from agriculture, dairy, conservation, nutrition and international food aid.  It’s a pretty significant one, because it impacts at least one in seven Americans through just one of its changes- funding for food stamps. So after two years of legislative haggling now over, we were just as eager to get the rundown of the bill and how it will affect food policies. 

Bilde

Native Foods uses this image courtesy of: www.freep.com/article/20140216/NEWS06/302160136/farm-bill-michigan-impact

 

The bill is a whopping 959 pages long and will cost just as much as there are pages in the doc…but add another seven zeroes to the end. Yes, that’s 956 “million” with a “B.” Overall responses have been pretty mixed on various issues— some good, some bad— but that’s just the way the cookie typically crumbles when it comes to these high-profile bills. So here’s the scoop to get you in the loop:

Congress is changing funding to commodity crop farmers.

Pro: Congress eliminates billions in farm subsidies to large farmers that often monopolize the market

Con: They replaced some of those deductions with billions in crop insurance

Food banks:

Pro: Bill raises funds for food banks to purchase food by 50 million

Con: That increase doesn’t offset SNAP cuts

The bill cuts $8.6 billion to SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) over the next ten years

Pro: The bill is a compromise between cutting $4 billion (Senate’s proposal) to the program and cutting $40 billion (House of Reps.’ proposal)

Con: This cut could lower a family’s support by $90 a month.

Snap

Native Foods uses this image courtesy of  www.ct.gov/dss/cwp/view.asp?a=2353&q=411676

 

Food and education

Pros: Bill supports nutritious food in schools

Cons: Nope, none here!

Overall takeaway:

Pro: The $1 trillion bill was not the disaster it could have been—activists succeeded in preventing the worst

Con: The bill could be disappointing to food justice groups, anti-hunger advocates, and small farmers, but in the absence of a farm bill over the last year, many small programs that support farmer’s markets and conservation will be funded once again 

No matter the challenges we still face on the food front, what’s great is that our country cares about this issue and positive change is happening. Didn’t anyone ever tell you, slow and steady wins the race?

If you’re looking for more info on the Agricultural Act of 2014, check out this inspiring video from Top Chef’s own Tom Colicchio as he discusses the bill and how we can play a big part in lobbying for change.

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